Electronics Rx

How to cure your system's ills.

Tell me what's ailing your electronics and I'll prescribe a cure. But once I write the prescription, it's up to you to follow through. Here are a few suggestions to help you assemble your own pharmaceutical kit to keep your electronics gear healthy.

ELECTRONICS ASPIRIN

Aerosol contact cleaner can cure a wide variety of problems on a boat -- including connectors, switches, wiring harnesses, antenna connections, or fuse holders. Sometimes referred to as "tuner cleaners," a blast of this stuff dissolves and washes away dirt, oil, and grease, plus it evaporates quickly without leaving any residue. Be sure the one you choose won't harm plastics. The brand I have on my repair bench is CRC's QD Contact Cleaner ($6.50/11 oz.; www.crcindustries.com), which is specifically formulated for marine use.

KILL CORROSION

I use Corrosion Block ($19/12 oz.; www.learchem.com) or WD-40 ($5/80 oz.; www.wd40.com). These chemicals dissolve corrosion and block it from spreading by leaving a residue that displaces water. If critical connections are already corroded, apply anti-corrosives, then wash the contacts with contact cleaner.

INSULATE

The best solution to a loss of electrical contact or corrosion is to prevent it in the first place. Sure, electrical tape can insulate a wire, but it won't stop moisture intrusion. Here are some of my favorite fixes:

BoatLife Marine Silicone Rubber ($6.25; www.boatlife.com) functions as a weatherproof firewall that keeps corrosion from developing. After it has set and dried, it remains rubbery to the touch and can be easily peeled away should you have to check the connection.

S&J Products Ultimate Waterproof Tape ($11; www.handimanmarine.com) adheres to itself as you wrap it around a connection. A chemical reaction then shrinks the tape, forming a seamless watertight seal.

To seal out moisture, brush MDR Liquid Lectric Tape ($8; www.mdramazon.com) on exposed terminal connections, electrical panels, and battery switches.

CRC also offers a Heavy Duty Corrosion Inhibitor ($6.50), a spray-on chemical that deposits a quick-drying insulating film that's flexible and protective.

T-9 from Boeshield ($17/12 oz.; www.boeshield.com) can protect hard-to-reach metal areas. This waterproof liquid displaces moisture, leaving a waxy film on metal surfaces to guard against corrosion. It also serves as a lubricant. Use it on battery terminals and cable harnesses.

GREASE IS THE WORD

Waterproof electronics and their connections depend on rubber seals and O-rings. CRC Premium Electronics Grease ($13) helps these seals inhibit water intrusion, especially as they age and dry.

PAINT IT THE TRUTH

Transducers are vulnerable to marine growth, so apply antifouling paint to the face or eye of each unit. Try MDR's Waterbase Anti-Fouling Transducer Paint ($11). It diminishes barnacles and marine growth on plastic or bronze through-hull or transom-mounted transducers.

SCREEN SAVER

Are you aware that an ordinary cleaner and cloth can permanently scratch and mar your displays? Marine Shield's Marine Electronics Screen Cleaner ($13; www.marineshieldproducts.com) is the best cleaner I've found to remove dirt and salt deposits from a radar, fishfinder, chartplotter, or multipurpose display.